Value Processors from Intel
Intel’s strategy towards inexpensive processor segment is totally different. While AMD tries to integrate their budget processors into a unified platform supporting both: value and high-performance CPUs, Intel uses the users of inexpensive systems to offload their almost obsolete products belonging to a platform, which is of no interest to the mainstream segment any more. This is exactly what Intel inexpensive processors are these days: mostly LGA775 form-factor using 45 nm production process. The main drawback of this platform is the separation of the CPU and the memory controller, which is inside the chipset in LGA775 systems. The chipset and the CPU are connected via the FSB bus, which insufficient bandwidth may limit the memory subsystem performance quite noticeably.
However, even though LGA775 platform has nearly lost its former significance, Intel continues to maintain clear product differentiation, making sure that cheap mainstream processors get discontinued in time. As a result, Core 2 processors do not fall into the lowest price segment, as their price is still above $100 even though they have been out there for a substantial number of years already. So, the value segment from Intel features only Celeron and Pentium LGA775 CPUs, which frequencies, however, are increased accordingly from time to time.
Celeron E3000. Celeron family includes dual-core CPUs with up to 2.7 GHz frequencies. They feature 1 MB of shared L2 cache. I have to point out that these processors support 200 MHz bus, which makes it impossible to use any faster memory than DDR2-800 (or DDR3-800) SDRAM. However, very attractive price makes up for this limited functionality: most Celeron models cost less than $50.
Pentium E5000/E6000. This LGA775 processor family may be regarded as an enhanced Celeron. While it also has two computational cores, all of its specifications have been brought up to a more acceptable level. The clock frequencies reach up to 3.33 GHz, the bus frequency has been increased to 266 MHz, and the shared L2 cache has grown 2 MB big. This combination of parameters ensures that Pentium is at least one step ahead of Celeron and makes this processor family the most popular Intel CPU even beyond the value segment.
I have to admit that LGA775 platform doesn’t look too appealing against the background of AMD. There are no processors coming out, it may even be considered a solution on the verge of becoming completely obsolete. The inexpensive Pentium processors will be replaced with the upcoming Sandy Bridge microarchitecture in Q2 2011 already. And In Q3 LGA775 Celerons will also start to get ousted from the market. Therefore, any further upgrade of the LGA775 platform is only possible by replacing Celeron or Pentium CPUs with some Core 2 products, because some Core 2 modifications will most likely last throughout the next year. However, it is important to understand that in terms of price-to-performance ratio, mainstream LGA775 processors definitely will not be able to compete against the new products from younger generations.
As for the few advantages of the LGA775 platform, we could mention low cost, diversity and wide availability of mainboards, even including models with unique features and functionality. Moreover, besides a wide range of already existing solutions, there are quite a few attractive contemporary choices. For example, LGA775 becomes the simplest and most reasonable option for a mini-ITX system.
I have to say that there is one more type of budget CPUs from Intel that keeps a little to itself. I am talking about Pentium G6950 designed for LGA1156 systems.
Pentium G9650 is an analogue of dual-core Core i5/i3 processors with extremely limited functionality. Therefore, it is based on 32 nm core and has a second semiconductor die inside the same processor packaging – the graphics core that may work in Intel H57/H55 based mainboards. The CPU doesn’t support any contemporary technologies increasing the performance (such as Hyper-Threading or Turbo Boost) and has a smaller 3 MB L3 cache. Pentium G6950 works at 2.8 GHz clock frequency and the maximum DDR3 SDRAM frequency is limited by 1067 MHz.
In other words, in terms of its formal specifications Pentium G6950 is just as appealing as its LGA775 counterparts, especially since its price is getting extremely close to $90. But this only budget LGA1156 processor has one indisputable advantage: it is also compatible with the platform that can take contemporary high-performance CPUs. However, this advantage has another side to it, as well: LGA1156 mainboards cost considerably more than Socket AM3 and LGA775 mainboards.
Let’s sum everything up in the following table that will list the specifications of all current Intel processors from the value price segment: